Developing a Vision for a Cultural Resources District

The Noquisiyi Initiative was the 2021 Creative Give Back winner. The Initiative and partners are establishing a Cultural District around the Noquisiyi Mound in Franklin, NC. This new district will honor the heritage of the Cherokee people and help to build universal understanding between cultures. The pioneering project proposed includes a learning center, education facilities, and entrepreneurship space. Creative EDC’s role was to help refine the redevelopment vision for the cultural resources district surrounding the Mound.

The community is excited about the redevelopment potential around the Mound, and Creative EDC caught that excitement while working on this project. People we engaged with understand the cultural significance of the Mound and want to expand ways people can learn about, engage with, and experience it. Stakeholders want a focus on education and learning experiences that tell the Cherokee story. They see the district as a hub of activity with a mix of uses such as education, commercial activity, entrepreneurship, and job creation.  

The area designated as the cultural district is approximately 4.4 acres, 12 parcels, surrounding the Noquisiyi Mound near downtown Franklin. Currently, there is a mix of uses (commercial, nonprofit, conservation) and property owners in the area. Several important assets surround and connect to the study area: Little Tennessee River, Little Tennessee River Greenway, downtown Franklin, and a large wetlands area owned by Macon County. We see these all tied together.

The Creative Team conducted market research that shows a growing local economy, as well as a growing regional tourism industry. This growing market will draw more people to the region, including the cultural district. Growth in population, tourism, retail sales, spending in restaurants, and spending on sports and leisure will support a wide range of small businesses.  

The vision that evolved during the process includes three components. The Noquisiyi Mound is crowded by commercial uses not symbiotic with the heritage and culture of the Cherokee. The redevelopment vision needs to make space for people to interact with the Mound. Examples are expanding green/park space around the Mound and removing visual barriers to natural features like the river. The vision includes redevelopment of a former auto parts store into a Learning Center that will be the anchor activity. In addition to educational activities inside the Learning Center, it is envisioned that additional educational activities will take place in an outdoor space surrounding the Mound. An area dedicated to entrepreneurship in the district is another way to engage members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) in the district, attract more visitors, and expand the cultural experiences available. Examples are restaurants focusing on traditional Cherokee cuisine and galleries of fine art and craft produced by members of the EBCI.

The Noquisiyi Cultural District has the opportunity to transform Franklin, Macon County, and the region by creating a cultural destination. We hope that lessons learned in this project will be helpful to other communities undertaking economic development projects related to cultural assets. That is one of our key criteria when evaluating Creative Give Back proposals – the ability to be replicated in other communities. Check out the full report to find information that will help your next redevelopment project. 

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